This dish is our new favorite for a Meatless Monday, because for relatively little effort, we can have a rich, wholesome, flavorful meal that doesn’t leave us missing meat. And by “us” I mean my husband. My dear carnivore loves his steaks and this kind of meal, and rarely does he feel satisfied without a little meat. Except with this dish. I think it’s because of the rich texture of the eggplant. I love it because of all the flavors reminiscent of the Mediterranean, with fresh and dried herb seasonings, and creamy ricotta and spinach that oozes out of these little eggplant rolls. The tomato sauce is simple and rustic, and the whole meal comes together in about 40 minutes. We’ll be making this again for a meatless meal any day of the week!
For more eggplant ideas, check out Nancy’s delicious Eggplant Stacks at Feasting with Friends, as well as Johnny’s delectable Eggplant Slices in Spiced Batter at Kitschnflavours and Elaine’s lovely Baba Ganoush at Foodbod. I know I’ve probably left out other great eggplant recipes I’ve seen lately – please feel free to add your favorite eggplant links in the comments. Enjoy!
Mediterranean Eggplant, Spinach & Ricotta Rolls
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can pureed tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
- salt & pepper
- dried marjoram
- 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 10 oz. (300 g.) ricotta
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan, divided
- 3 Tbs. crisp bread crumbs (I used whole grain panko)
- fresh parsley and/or fresh marjoram leaves for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 F/ 200 C. Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices the long way, keeping the slices as even on all sides as possible. (Reserve any leftover eggplant for the sauce.) Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Spray or brush on olive oil on both sides of the eggplant slices, place in one layer on the foil-lined sheets and bake for 15 minutes to soften and make them just pliable for rolling. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly, and raise the oven temperature to 425 F/210 C.
- Meanwhile, wilt the spinach by pouring a teakettle full of boiling water over the spinach in a colander or mesh strainer. When cool enough to touch, use clean hands to squeeze out the moisture, then transfer to a cutting board and chop coarsely.
- Make the simple tomato sauce: In a saucepan, cook the minced garlic briefly in a tablespoon of olive oil, then add any leftover eggplant, diced small, and cook through. Add the tomatoes (both diced and pureed) , chopped basil, salt & pepper and 1 tsp. marjoram and cook, stirring and tasting often, adjusting seasonings as you go, for about 10 minutes.
- Combine the wilted & chopped spinach, ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1 tsp. marjoram, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, salt & pepper, and taste — go for a bold seasoning here, adjusting as necessary to get a tasty filling.
- Take a high-sided baking dish (I used a small 8-inch square ceramic baking dish with 2-inch high sides) and spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Mix together bread crumbs and 1/4 cup grated parmesan.
- Place a heaping tablespoon or two of filling on an eggplant slice at the widest part, then roll and place seamside-down in the baking dish. Continue with the other slices, rolling and placing in the dish until they are snug. Pour one to two ladlefuls of sauce around the sides and over them (reserve a good portion of the sauce for plating), sprinkle with additional cracked black pepper, top with the parmesan-bread crumb mixture and bake, uncovered, at 425 F/ 210 C for 20 minutes, or until bubbling and cooked through to the center.
- To plate, ladle out reserved sauce onto plates, then carefully scoop out 2 to 3 eggplant rolls, careful to keep the breading on top. Garnish with fresh herbs.